Writers of "Mars lit" have always used the red planet to mirror us — both what can be great about us and, well, maybe not so great.By Alexander HulsJun 9, 2017 11:51 AM
Even the most forgiving person would probably admit that when it comes to our planet, we’ve maybe (and that’s a generous “maybe”) not always done the best job with it. That may be why ever since Galileo Galilei first glimpsed Mars in his telescope in 1609, the red planet has not just drawn our curiosity, but our hope. Maybe up there we can start again, if we can just get there.
Slowly, getting there is becoming a reality. Soon the rovers kicking up red dust on Mars could be replaced by human feet. NASA hopes to send manned expeditions throughout the 2030s. Elon Musk’s Space X wants to get crewed missions underway by 2024. The entrepreneurs behind Mars One want to send humans on a one-way settlement mission sometime after 2027.
But while those initiatives are looking to make colonizing Mars a reality, others have already beaten them to it in their imaginations. For over a century, writers have envisioned human beings onto that big red orb up there. No Marvin the Martians or War of the Worlds tripods, but humans who experience adventures and dystopias, escapes from humanity’s foibles, and cruel repetitions of them. In other words, while Mars may be just one color, stories set on it come in many hues.
That’s what’s so great about Mars lit: the way writers use the planet to mirror us — both what can be great about us, and, well, maybe not so great about us. It’s a subgenre of sorts that can deftly navigate stories about mankind being worthy of second chances or doomed to waste them, and in the process, can tell us a lot about who we are and perhaps should be.
Here, then, are seven great examples of Mars lit that can preview what may be in store for us when we make it up there someday.